Background. The risk of asthma associated with pets and other indoor exposures has been examined in both cross-sectional and prospective studies of younger children. However, there has been little investigation of the effect of the indoor environment on incident asthma in adolescents.
Methods. Risk factors for the development of asthma were examined in a cohort of 3535 Southern California school children with no history of asthma at 1993 entry into the study, who were followed for up to 5 years. Newly diagnosed cases of asthma were identified by yearly interview report. A total of 265 children reported a new diagnosis of asthma during the follow-up period; 163 of these had reported no history of wheeze at baseline. The risk associated with indoor exposures assessed by questionnaire at entry into the study was examined using Cox proportional hazards models.
Results. In children with no history of wheezing, an increased risk of developing asthma was associated with a humidifier (relative risk [RR] = 1.7; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.2–2.4), any pet (RR = 1.6; 95% CI = 1.0–2.5), or specifically a dog (RR = 1.4; 95% CI = 1.0–2.0) in the home. An estimated 32% of new asthma cases could be attributed to pets.
Conclusions. We conclude that furry pets are a common and potentially remediable risk factor for new onset asthma in adolescents. Our results suggest that a humidifier in the home may contribute to the onset of asthma in this age group.